At this very moment, you are actually moving your eyes over a white page dotted with black marks. Yet you feel that you are simply lost in the universe of The New York Times Book Review, alert to the seductive perfume of a promising new novel and the acrid bite of a vicious critical attack. That transformation from arbitrary marks to vivid experience is one of the great mysteries of the human mind. It’s especially mysterious because reading is a relatively recent invention, dating to some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Our brains didn’t evolve to read. Stanislas Dehaene, a distinguished French cognitive scientist, has helped unravel that mystery. His gifts, on display in “Reading in the Brain,” include an aptitude for complex experiments and an appetite for detail. This makes for excellent science but not, paradoxically, easy reading. Still, his book will repay careful study, even if it doesn’t inspire blissful absorption.
more from Alison Gopnik at the NYT here.